Dutch Women Win Water Polo World Title In Epic Fashion With Shootout Win Over Spain


The Netherlands reclaimed the women’s water polo world title after a 32-year drought in thrilling fashion on Friday, topping Spain by a score of 17-16 in a penalty shootout.

The Dutch women won bronze last year in Budapest, and their only gold medal at the World Championships prior to tonight came back in 1991 (they also won Olympic gold in 2008).

In the bronze-medal game, Italy earned a spot on the podium with a 16-14 victory over Australia, while 2022 champions USA needed a penalty to shootout to beat Hungary for fifth.


The Dutch women got off to a strong start, sitting up 4-3 after the first quarter, but Spain quickly rebounded and were up 6-4 midway through the second.

After things were knotted at six at the half, the Netherlands had a big third quarter, going up 9-7, but Spain battled back again, with Judith Forca scoring her fifth goal of the game to tie things up late, 11-11, sending things into a shootout.

The Netherlands was perfect in the shootout, going five-for-five to earn the gold medal, with Bea Ortiz, who scored in regulation time, the only athlete failing to convert on Spain’s third attempt.

The Dutch team was propelled by Brigitte Sleeking and Simone van de Kraats, who both recorded hat tricks, while Sabrina van der Sloot and Lieke Rogge added two goals apiece.

“Amazing. You don’t see it, but I’m so tired,” said van der Sloot. “I am really proud of my team. I think what we did was just the game that we love, that we play every day. And you don’t need motivation to play the final, and the World Championship, and you don’t need motivation to win these games. I mean, we always want to win, but these types of games are special and we try to just focus and enjoy.”

Dutch head coach Evangelos Doudesis spoke on the ups and downs of the high-stakes match.

“The game was a rollercoaster of emotions and a rollercoaster of everything,” said Doudesis. “What helped us is the fact that we stayed in attack really concentrated and we were really effective in six against six in minimum situations.”

Spain had two-goal efforts from Paula Crespi BarrigaElena Ruiz and Maica Garcia Godoy in addition to the five tallies produced by Forca.

“It was a very close game,” said Spanish head coach Miguel Oca. “They were always leading in the score. In the end we had a chance in the penalties, and we could have won. I wish we could have scored one more goal to prevent the match from going into penalties.

“Even though we were not able to get the gold today, we are satisfied with the results. Losing the finals leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth, but winning a medal and getting a ticket to Paris is something to celebrate.”


In another closely contested battle, the third quarter ended up being the difference-maker in the bronze medal match, leading Italy to a 16-14 victory over Australia.

The two teams were deadlocked, 10-10, at the halfway mark, and matched each other in the fourth quarter with three goals apiece. However, it was Italy’s 3-1 surge in the third that proved to be the decisive moment in the match.

Claudia Marletta scored twice in the third for the Italians, tying things at 11 and then following up with the go-ahead goal.

Marletta finished with five goals in the match, while Roberta Bianconi scored six times to lead Italy to the win.

“I am really happy, but I cannot score if the team does not play like this,” said Bianconi. “So, it is thanks to the team, because they did a really good job, all of us. We did a really good job. Today we were sure we could win and we proved it in the water. I am really proud of them.”

Italy also took full advantage on penalty shots, scoring on all five of their attempts while Australia went three-for-four.

The Aussies were led by Alice Williams, who put up a hat trick, while Bronte HalliganAbby Andrews and Charlize Andrews all scored twice.

“I think to make the top four is a success,” said Aussie coach Paul Oberman. “To have two losses at the end and be fourth place is the worst place to be because you lose after doing all the good work early. However, I still consider it a success; we will build on this experience for the future.”


  • Fifth-Place Game: USA 15, Hungary 13
  • Seventh-Place Game: Canada 14, Greece 12


  1. Netherlands
  2. Spain
  3. Italy
  4. Australia
  5. United States of America
  6. Hungary
  7. Canada
  8. Greece
  9. France
  10. Israel
  11. New Zealand
  12. South Africa
  13. China
  14. Japan
  15. Kazakhstan
  16. Argentina


Most Valuable Player:
Elena Ruiz (ESP)

Best Goalkeeper:
Laura Aarts (NED)

Highest Goal-scorer:
Judith Forca (ESP) 24

Media All-Star Team:

Laura Aarts (NED)
Field Players:
Yumi Arima (JPN)
Roberta Bianconi (ITA)
Judith Forca (ESP)
Elena Ruiz (ESP)
Simone van de Kraats (NED)
Alice Williams (AUS)

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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